Saturday, October 13, 2007

Judy Woodruff Sits With Ron Paul

The fringe candidate/sensation Ron Paul continues to gather campaign cash and steam:

Changing The Gulf Forever

Hands down, climate change is serious business. Al Gore was mocked for talking about it in the 1980s, now he has won a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. Though for some people, large ideas do not have much meaning in their own lives. Now the residents of the Gulf Coast have been dealing with those effects, specifically from Hurricane Katrina for the last two years. Many people have already left the area for good and at this point, the Army Corps of Engineers wants people to leave the area for good so they can try to combat the effects of man on the environment.

From The Guardian:

The United States is working on a multi-billion-dollar plan to depopulate vast swaths of coastline along the Gulf of Mexico in a move which it is hoped would help re-establish a natural barrier against the catastrophic flooding caused by the likes of Hurricane Katrina.

In the first sign that the federal government is favouring a retreat from the coast rather than rebuilding, the Army Corps of Engineers is to present to Congress a radical plan which includes rebuilding the wetlands that have been disappearing at an ever-accelerating rate in recent years.

The Corps, the engineers responsible for protecting the coastline, has been working on the plan since Katrina struck in August 2005. President George Bush promised after the floods to rebuild New Orleans and other Gulf communities.

But federal agencies and environmentalists have concluded that climate change has increased the threat of further devastation and continued rebuilding makes no sense. To be included in the overall plan is $40bn (£20bn) to be spent on the Mississippi coast. Part of this would be for a voluntary buyout of 17,000 houses in Mississippi, particularly in Bay St Louis, east of New Orleans. The corps is likely to extend the plan to New Orleans and Louisiana.

Of course there will be people that object to a project that encourages people to leave their community behind. It is never a happy day when you just have to pick up and leave. However, people can easily forget that the world is bigger than themselves and larger than life events have a real impact on the individual.

It may be hard to comprehend the realities of climate change, especially when they are staring you right in the face. It is also hard not to sympathize with those that should or must leave the Gulf Coast regions. However, as years go on and we continue to see the planet change at an increasing rate, they will not be the only ones to have their lives significantly altered as temperatures increase and sea levels rise.

Are We Still Listening To Our Generals?

General Ricardo Sanchez was on the ground in Iraq until 2006, but that doesn't mean that the Bush Administration paid much attention to him. He criticized the war effort in every aspect, saying that by being there we are only "staving off defeat." His other quotes weren't any more encouraging then that. Besides being another ex-military official to condemn the President and his war, Sanchez is certainly the highest ranking military man to come out from his silence.

From The New York Times:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 12— In a sweeping indictment of the four-year effort in Iraq, the former top American commander called the Bush administration’s handling of the war incompetent and warned that the United States was “living a nightmare with no end in sight.”

In one of his first major public speeches since leaving the Army in late 2006, retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez blamed the administration for a “catastrophically flawed, unrealistically optimistic war plan” and denounced the current “surge” strategy as a “desperate” move that will not achieve long-term stability.

“After more than fours years of fighting, America continues its desperate struggle in Iraq without any concerted effort to devise a strategy that will achieve victory in that war-torn country or in the greater conflict against extremism,” Mr. Sanchez said, at a gathering here of military reporters and editors.

Not only did he condemn Bush, he faulted himself and the military for the constant string of failures in Iraq. Sanchez was the top guy during the Abu Ghraib mess and that will certainly haunt him for some time to come.

He didn't offer much in the way of solutions, other than mimic the President when it comes to reconciliation (which will not happen) and training Iraqis to provide their own security. Of course, Sanchez is a General, not a politician or diplomat. His training is for military solutions, whether they can fail or succeed in the first place. What needs to happen is a political solution, and that is something that Bush does not want to take place.....or he would have brought our troops home already.

Recruiting Illegal Immingrants

Out of the many horrifying scenes in "Glory," the worst one for me was not bloody or particularly violent. The part that scared me the most was how recruiters took immigrants right from the boats that got them there to the boats that would take them to the front lines of the civil war.

It looks like our military hasn't come that far since then:

There's A Senate Ethics Committee?

It sounds too good to be true...a committee that investigates Senators with questionable ethics. The fact that such a committee exists should prove that the Senate is up to the task of making sure they hold their own accountable when it comes to breaking the law. Even more shocking, the GOP demanded to use said committee to investigate the actions of Larry Craig, who pled guilty to a misdemeanor lewd conduct charge so he could escape prosecution of soliciting sex in a men's restroom. So who on the committee is going to lead the charge and start taking names? one really. Apparently it was just a bluff made by the GOP and Larry Craig called it. Oh, and the Democrats do not plan on doing anything about it either, lest they look like the pot that called the kettle black.

From The Huffington Post:

The secretive Ethics Committee, comprising three Democrats and three Republicans, may recommend discipline against a senator for "conduct or activity which does not directly relate to official duties, when such conduct unfavorably reflects on the institution as a whole."

Despite that broad standard, Brand told the committee in September that it has never acted on allegations unrelated to a senator's "official action."

Boxer said through a spokeswoman Friday: "We are in the process of conducting a preliminary inquiry, and this stage is always closed to the public. If, at the end of the preliminary inquiry, the Ethics Committee decides to move into the adjudicatory phase, any hearings held would be public unless the committee votes to close them. But that is a decision that is made after we have completed our preliminary inquiry."

The Ethics Committee traditionally moves slowly, with some cases taking years to resolve. The Craig matter seems no exception.

Well so much for upholding that standard of ethics we hope our elected leaders have...or not. True, it isn't like Craig murdered someone or anything, it was just soliciting sex in an airport bathroom. The incident is amusing but no one really got hurt (other than Craig's wife, family, the people of Idaho, integrity of the Senate and Larry's inner child).

Oh well, just another day in Washington.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Clueless Councilman Koppell

I know that several subway lines run up to the Bronx, but it seems one of their representatives in the City Council has never ridden on one before. As talk about providing cell service in subway stations seems to be turning into action, one of our City Councilmen prove that he has no idea what he is talking about.

From The Daily News:

City Council members urged the MTA Thursday to create "quiet cars" on subways so riders can avoid listening to other straphangers yammer on cell phones after stations are wired.

Councilman Oliver Koppell (D-Bronx) noted "long-haul" rail lines already use the "quiet cars."

"You may say, 'People won't listen.' But there's a tendency for self-policing in that system," Koppell said at a Council hearing.

Koppell said straphangers would have to make sure the rules are enforced on the "quiet cars."

"So, if you have a quiet car ... and someone gets on and starts talking on the cell phone, other passengers will say, 'This is a quiet car, please turn off the cell phone,'" Koppell said. "Generally, that works."

I question if Koppell has ever been a straphanger before. Unless you ride the subway in the middle of the night, there is no such thing as a "quiet car." Cars that get jammed pack are full of noisy riders, which is why I keep my iPod handy when transversing the city. No one is going to "self-enforce" these rules either, as the Gothamist notes, people do not show too much courtesy when it comes to giving seats up for women with children or the elderly.

If people started using their phones while riding, it would barely add to the decibel noise down there. Of course, if he had actually read about the proposal, he would have noticed that cell service is only being talked about in stations, not in the tunnels. Therefore, there is no way to enforce a "quiet car" if you do not get reception anyways. As for riding above ground out in the boroughs, people use their phones whenever and wherever they please, no one cares if someone is talking on the phone, as people talk amongst themselves while riding.

Councilman Koppell seriously needs to get a clue about how things work down underground.

Red State Update Gives Us A "Christian Candidate"

Blackwater Wanted By U.N. For War Crimes

Although the State Department is reviewing its policies about contractors in the wake of the Blackwater massacre last month, justice seems slow in coming or not at all for those mercenaries that slaughtered 17 civilians and wounded dozens. While the Bush Administration does nothing, Iraqis are going to court and the U.N. is demanding that the perpetrators be tried for war crimes.

From Yahoo News:

The killing of 17 Iraqis in a shooting involving U.S. security firm Blackwater last month has created tensions between Baghdad and Washington and sparked calls for tighter controls on private contractors, who are immune from prosecution in Iraq.

Ivana Vuco, the U.N.'s senior human rights officer in Iraq, told a news conference that private security contractors were still subject to international humanitarian law.

"Investigations as to whether or not crimes against humanity, war crimes, are being committed and obviously the consequences of that is something that we will be paying attention to and advocating for," she told a news conference.

Maybe this is one of the reasons why Bush and his neo-con friends hate the U.N. so much. Accountability and justice for American actions overseas? Bush doesn't even like those things here at home, let alone in Baghdad where he has set his cowboy friends loose on the country. We'll see if the U.N. can muster the strength to actually try these killers in a court of law.

As The Rich Get Richer.....

The poor are getting poorer and so it the middle class. Wages are down for many Americans, but not at the top. While salaries are down for two percent for many of us, the top one percent saw their income rise three percent between 2000 and 2005. These conditions haven't been seen since the Roaring 20s (that was followed by the Great Depressing 30s).

From RawStory:

"Scholars attribute rising inequality to several factors," the Journal reports, "including technological change that favors those with more skills, and globalization and advances in communications that enlarge the rewards available to 'superstar' performers whether in business, sports or entertainment."

The data could cause problems to President Bush and Republican presidential candidates, who have played up low unemployment and a strong economy since 2003, crediting Bush's tax cuts for contributing to both. In an interview with the Journal, Bush downplayed the significance of the income gap, saying more education is the answer to narrowing it.

"First of all, our society has had income inequality for a long time. Secondly, skills gaps yield income gaps," Bush told the Journal. "And what needs to be done about the inequality of income is to make sure people have got good education, starting with young kids. That's why No Child Left Behind is such an important component of making sure that America is competitive in the 21st century."

While George talks about his useless programs, real people are suffering and he isn't doing anything tangible for those not in the top one percent. The fact is, with all these forces, both political and those noted by the "scholars" the state of our economy is worsening. It does not matter how high the Dow goes, that figure only tells how much stock prices are worth for thirty of the top corporations in the country.

The Dow, NASQAQ, AMEX or S&P will never tell the conditions of households across the country. Stock prices rise when people are laid off to increase profit shares. That is only good for shareholders, not those that find themselves out of work because it was good for someone's bottom line.

Republican Bean Dip

Colbert compares bean dip to the Republican candidates debate on Tuesday and talks to Frank Gaffney about pulling out our money from terror-sponsoring states rather than bombing the hell out of them.

There's Nothing To See Here But A Nobel Peace Prize

Now it is official, Mr. Gore has won the Nobel Peace Prize along with the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for their efforts to fight global warming. Congratulations to the man and the organization that have done the most to spread the message and take action for what is most definitely the problem in the world we must so urgently address. The prize is truly an honor to whomever wins it and Al Gore is no exception.

Now, everybody back to work.

What? You were expecting a declaration for him to run for President? When we have all these great candidates in the race already? Hillary, Obama, Edwards and Nobody all look goo..... Okay, I'm sorry. I really wanted him to run too, but with this last vestige of hope now officially over and the Nobel in the right hands, this is the end for a 2008 Gore Presidency. Face it, the guy is now on "International" status, why would he want to be kicked around again by a Republican nominee and the scores of pundits (even though they do it already anyway)?

The man that was born to run has found a higher calling and frankly, selfishly, that makes me sad. Sure, I want the Earth cleaned up, I really do not want to live in filth and my future generations screwed by our current state of affairs. But I want a leader in the White House damnit! Hillary, meh....Obama the outsider is full of insiders and my other hope for some semblance of leadership had to take a hit in the gut and accept federal matching dollars, a move that will severely impact the campaign even if he does fight back against the two frontrunners.

So basically, today was a great day for Al Gore and the environment, but the campaign drums keep playing the same incessant beat.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Ann Coulter "Perfects" Her Anti-Semitism

At last night's Mega Meetup down in TriBeCa a few of us were joking about having a Halloween costume contest to see who could wear the scariest Ann Coulter costume. No matter how hard we could try, no one is scarier than the real thing. Today she proved just how ugly she is on the inside, showing her anti-semitic self on CNBC.

From Editor and Publisher:

NEW YORK Appearing on Donny Deutsch's CNBC show, "The Big Idea," on Monday night, columnist/author Ann Coulter suggested that the U.S. would be a better place if there weren't any Jewish people and that they needed to "perfect" themselves into -- Christians. It led Deutsch to suggest that surely she couldn't mean that, and when she insisted she did, he said this sounded "anti-Semitic." Asked by Deutsch whether she wanted to be like "the head of Iran" and "wipe Israel off the Earth," Coulter stated: "No, we just want Jews to be perfected, as they say. ... That's what Christianity is. We believe the Old Testament."

This is absolutely disgusting. Every single pundit and TV host should bar her from their programs, if there wasn't enough proof to do so already. Her quest to sell more books has gone far off the deep end.

Ron Paul Schools CNBC "Experts" On Defense And The Economy

I have many qualms with the libertarian candidate, but he sounds a lot more like a Republican than the current brand of wackos that put the letter "R" after their name.

Shame On CNN's John Roberts

You know, I expect all of the abhorrent things that people like Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin and the cacophony of the right-wing blogosphere do to people that get in their way. Their assault on twelve year old Graeme Frost is disgusting, but not overly surprising. The worst thing is when the traditional media outlets start reporting with a wingnut point of view.

From ThinkProgress:

CNN’s John Roberts reported: “Some of the accusations [against the Frosts] may be exaggerated or false. But did the Democrats make a tactical error in holding up Graeme as their poster child?” A CNN political analyst then placed the blame squarely on the Democrats’ shoulders:

I think in this instance what happened was the Democrats didn’t do as much of a vetting as they could have done on this young man, his situation, his family. […]

More and more, Congress is acting less like a deliberative legislative body, and more like a political campaign. We’ve been seeing the politicization of every aspect of government.

There was no "tactical error" on the part of the Democrats. Graeme is the perfect example of why we need to have S-CHIP in the way that the bi-partisan Congress passed it. Their vetting of the Frost family was perfectly sufficient, the problem was when bloggers and pundits on the right cherry picked information to damage the reputation of this boy and his family.

As for "politicization," George Bush made the decision to go nuclear when he vetoed this overwhelmingly popular bill. Americans are by and large in favor of what Congress set out to do. The health care problem is out of control in our country and we are grateful that they are starting to help those who can hardly help themselves. These children are too young to have to be burdened with our failed system of privatized health care. It is our duty to make sure those that have the least among us and especially the most vulnerable be able to obtain medical care.

It Ain't Over For Gonzales Yet

Even though ex-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resigned from his office last month, his troubles are far from over. Obviously he is smart enough to recognize this and has retained a GOP loyalist attorney by the name of George Terwilliger. George was one of the top lawyers helping Bush during the 2000 vote recount saga down in Florida and was almost selected to replace Gonzo as Attorney General himself, being beat out by Michael Mukasey.

From Newsweek:

The top concern for Gonzales, and now Terwilliger, is the expanding investigation by Glenn Fine, the Justice Department’s fiercely independent inspector general, according to three legal sources familiar with the matter who declined to speak publicly about ongoing investigations. Originally, Fine's internal Justice probe—conducted in conjunction with lawyers from the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility—focused on the mass dismissal of U.S. attorneys late last year. The investigation has since broadened to include, among other matters, charges that Gonzales lied to Congress about the Bush administration’s warrantless surveillance program and the circumstances surrounding his late-night March 10, 2004, visit to the hospital room of then attorney general John Ashcroft. At the same time, Congress is continuing to pursue more documents on harsh CIA interrogation techniques approved by Gonzales.

Fine’s investigators, who received high-level security clearances, have been interviewing key players involved in the now-famous bedside confrontation in Ashcroft's hospital room, according to the legal sources. During the visit that evening, Gonzales, then White House counsel, sought to persuade an ailing and heavily medicated Ashcroft to overrule department lawyers who had refused to sign off on classified surveillance activities ordered by President Bush because of concerns about their legality. A rash of senior Justice Department officials—including then deputy attorney general James Comey and FBI Director Robert Mueller—threatened to resign over the incident.

Now that incident is beginning to haunt Alberto in the worst way. Congress and the Attorney General office's own Glenn Fine is hot on his trail. Can GoOPer Terwilliger save Gonzo's ass from the law and the truth? I'm hoping he can't, but we'll see how good his new attorney is....and more importantly how hard the law is going to work to convict him for his crimes against our country.

On The Ground In Burma

GOP Voters Starting To Come Around....And Against "Free Trade"

There really is nothing free about "free trade." It is a phrase used by Republican strategists and pundits to make people believe they want a level playing field and to let people pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. However, that happy feeling for those that love and adore capitalism is not how things happen reality. After trying it Bush's way for the last six years, moderate and conservative Republicans are starting to see the folly of their ways.

From The Wall Street Journal:

WASHINGTON -- By a nearly two-to-one margin, Republican voters believe free trade is bad for the U.S. economy, a shift in opinion that mirrors Democratic views and suggests trade deals could face high hurdles under a new president.

The sign of broadening resistance to globalization came in a new Wall Street Journal-NBC News Poll that showed a fraying of Republican Party orthodoxy on the economy. While 60% of respondents said they want the next president and Congress to continue cutting taxes, 32% said it's time for some tax increases on the wealthiest Americans to reduce the budget deficit and pay for health care.

Six in 10 Republicans in the poll agreed with a statement that free trade has been bad for the U.S. and said they would agree with a Republican candidate who favored tougher regulations to limit foreign imports. That represents a challenge for Republican candidates who generally echo Mr. Bush's calls for continued trade expansion, and reflects a substantial shift in sentiment from eight years ago.

Although it is great that they see a problem with what is going on, these party faithful just do not get that any one of their candidates will never go against the fiscal policies of George Bush and the reasoning is simple. The cronyism that has gone on in the last few years has been spectacular for the large donors of the GOP. All of his potential GOP successors will only continue or strengthen the current fiscal climate. Unchecked globalization is good for business, and the people that get screwed in the wake of their path be damned.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Empire State Bldg Respects Islam

Glenn Beck might ask if New York City supports terrorism when the Empire State Building goes green for the Muslim holiday of Eid...but that would be expected from an idiot like him. For those of us with more sanity in our thought processes, its great to see that the pre-eminent icon in the city can honor not only holidays like Christmas and Chanukah, but Eid and many others.

From RawStory:

New York's iconic Empire State Building is to be lit up green from Friday in honor of the Muslim holiday of Eid, the biggest festival in the Muslim calendar marking the end of Ramadan, officials said.

"This is the first time that the Empire State Building will be illuminated for Eid, and the lighting will become an annual event in the same tradition of the yearly lightings for Christmas and Hannukah," according to a statement.

Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the fasting month, is expected to be celebrated in New York from Friday, depending on when the new moon is sighted, and the city's tallest skyscraper will remain green until Sunday.

My apologies to all the small, narrow minds out there.

Councilman Oddo Loses It

I usually do not watch people get "punked," but watching Councilman James Oddo lose his cool in front of a Norwegian comedienne is absolutely hilarious.

Thank You Captain Obvious

So I was going through The Huffington Post just now and I ran into a post by Peter Mehlman. If you do not recognize the name, he was one of the head writers for Seinfeld. Due to a couple degrees of separation, he got me on as an extra for a show he created (not Seinfeld) a few years back. He is a great comedy writer, but when it comes to analyzing the media, his message is rather depressing.

The gist of it is that in today's media, there are so many outlets for people to choose to get their news from, whether you are liberal or conservative. Because of that, he sees the Information Age is more like "it's the blather-ation age." Well I am glad you notice that Peter, the Information Age does allow many people to express their viewpoints and yes, other people can choose to read whichever they deem fit.

Mehlman highlights the works of Maureen Dowd and Bill Maher on the left and David Broder on the right, showing that as talented as these people are the only thing being accomplished is preaching to the choir. What Peter is missing here is that even though politics is extremely divisive, the world is not wholly black and white. There are (gasp) independents out there that hate both choirs and are looking for a middle ground. In fact, there are more and more Independents being registered all the time.

The most depressing part of his post was the end:

Preaching to the choir is a deadening experience.

Then again, preaching to the heathens isn't much better. On the right, a respected conservative columnist like David Brooks in the New York Times sounds more and more desperate in his attempts to gently get liberals to think another way. Ask a Maureen Dowd fan if he or she read David Brooks today and you get this put upon reaction of, "I started reading but by the third paragraph, I just couldn't stand it anymore."

Instead, we spend our lives preparing for an argument we'll never have with a person we'll never meet whose opinions we could never change.

Now I find this insulting to people that are actively engaged in politics, even if they only want to know what is going on in the world. What Peter seems to be inferring is that with all the sources of information out there, why should we even bother following the news if we can't get through to the other side?

Well if I remember correctly, it is an engaged citizenry that strengthens a democracy. Sure, not everyone is going to follow the news as meticulously as others, but that is perfectly fine. Nevertheless, people's minds do actually change, the Congress, the Presidency and all the elected offices below that do change hands based on how the public feels their leaders are doing. It is how a democracy works (even if ours has been walloped in the head over and over by the neo-cons in the last few years) and we should continue to strive for a better nation that serves its people.

Now The MTA Wants More Of Your Money

A quarter isn't a lot of money, but if you rely on the MTA to get you here and there in the city, those quarters add up fast. The transit agency already warned commuters it wants to raise fares by a quarter, with plans to offer a reduced rate for off-peak times. That $1.50 off-peak rate got some positive response from New Yorkers, but now it seems that it won't be that cheap.

From The Daily News:

Public notices announcing next month's hearings warn riders that Metropolitan Transportation Authority next year could impose a peak fare of $2.25 - without a discount option that could soften the blow for many rush-hour riders. The base fare is now $2.

The notices also for the first time say an off-peak fare - proposed by top MTA staffers last month to be set at $1.50 - could actually cost $1.75.

MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin said the public notices cite a higher range of hikes simply to give the MTA board, which would adopt any increases, more "flexibility" to raise the same amount of money: $580 million over two years.

"This is not our proposal," Soffin said of the higher figures in the public notice.

If that isn't their proposal, then why the hell is it in there? If it is a question of "flexibility," then why not offer a reduced rate of $1.25 or even $1.00 even? This smells more like a scam being proposed to the city instead of a fair deal. While a little rain seems to create problems on the tracks, like what happened today on the 7 line, why should we have to pay higher and higher rates if we can't even get decent service?

The Gothamist highlights where all the board meetings will be held across the city, so everyone can have a short commute to tell the MTA whats on their minds.

Mike "Quitter" Johanns

Rudy Gets Booed At Yankee Stadium

Even though I am a Dodger fan, have been for over twenty-seven years and until the day I die, I have to hand it to Yankee fans for their treatment of Rudy Giuliani the day they were booted from the playoffs. I've never thought about Steinbrenner's politics, but when I think back on the games I have been to in the Bronx certain things like singing "God Bless America" is a bit strange for the seventh inning stretch.

Anyways, Rudy was there to support his team, care of Steinbrenner's free front row tickets that are always provided. Not only does he get free seats, as a potential nominee for the Republican Presidential ticket, he was also given free TV coverage at the game, but Yankee fans were not pleased with this at all.

From DailyKos:

For years, George Steinbreener and right wing nutcases running the New York Yankees have subtly and overtly attempted to turn a nonpolitical sporting event such as watching a baseball game at Yankees stadium into a 1930s style German propaganda event to promote right wing politicians, right wing views on religion, and right wing views on Iraq. It's no longer take me out to the ballgame and as a Yankee fan, I find it disgusting.

The most frequent use of mixing politics and baseball at Yankee stadium is Steinbrenner's promotion of right wing extremist Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani gets a front row, unimpeded view of Yankee games because these seats are given to him by Steinbrenner. Then Yankee stadium officials and the networks try to plaster Rudy Giuliani's face all over the big screen and the television. This amounts to millions of dollars of free advertising, something quite beneficial when you are running for President.

But Steinbrenner overplayed his hand. Giuliani got roundly booed at Yankee Stadium and this will play out on the campaign trail.

DaveFromQueens over at DailyKos expands on how this can reverberate, but only if the other candidates (both D and R) use it to their advantage. It takes only a minuscule amount of common sense to know that if people from your own city resoundingly boo you at a baseball game, it shows a lot about the guy.

New Yorkers know how bad Giuliani is, his record as Mayor before, during and after September 11th was atrocious. We are sick of him using the terrible tragedy that happened here six years ago for his own benefit. As more people get to know the real Rudy, the less of a chance he will have.

Since When Is Feeding The Homeless A Crime?

When it comes to the homeless, there are plenty of men, women and children who sleep on the streets every night. For the most part they are hardly seen, whether we walk by them on the sidewalk or live in a comfortable suburban home away urban areas where many homeless are found. We must remember that they are people too, but it seems that isn't the case in Orlando, where it is a crime to feed them too much.

From Central Florida News:

Eric Montanez, 22, is with the group food not bombs. He was the first person arrested earlier this year on charges that he broke the rules when it comes to Orlando's limits on just how often the homeless can be fed and how many can be fed at one time.

Montanez argued in court the ordinance is unfair and criminalizes homelessness.

To show its support, the group organized Ladle Fest, a three-day large scale feeding at Lake Eola Park. It runs through Wednesday.

Food Not Bombs say it's dividing the feeding into several small groups so it doesn't violate the ordinance.

How does a city write these cruel and unusual laws. What kind of heartless people are there on their city council that they can make it a crime to give to the homeless? I am glad that Mr. Montanez was declared not guilty, but why was there even a trial to begin with?

The Coalition Of The Damned

It seems that every nation that got suckered into Iraq is trying its best to get out. Nevertheless our fearless leader lies about how many nations are in it with us and....does one soldier from Poland count as a committed country?

Conservatives Have Way Too Much Time On Their Hands

There are many different issues and causes that a person can feel passionate about, whether you are on one side or the other. Letting women make decisions about their own body, should we help give health care to children who can not afford it, is it smart to stay in Iraq even though we are making it many questions to ponder (though I would think the answers are easy in my humble opinion). Now to you nuts on the right, why the hell do you care so much about the logo on Google?

From The LA Times:

Google Inc. occasionally features light-hearted doodles on its colorful home-page logo to commemorate special occasions. But now they are drawing criticism from conservatives for not being more patriotic.

The Mountain View, Calif., company bathes its logo in stars and stripes every Independence Day, but last week's decision to honor the 50th anniversary of the Sputnik launch -- the second "g" in Google was replaced with a drawing of the Soviet satellite -- is being blasted by some conservatives.

Not only did Google honor an achievement by a totalitarian regime that was our Cold War enemy, they griped, but it did so without having ever altered its logo to commemorate U.S. military personnel on Memorial Day or Veterans Day.

"It's a kick to your belly," said conservative blogger Giovanni Gallucci, 39, a social media consultant from Dallas. "I understand these guys are scientists and engineers and they have their quirks and want to make sure people are recognized who might not normally be recognized . . . but why not celebrate the struggles that we've come through as a people?"

Seriously, can someone get that man a life.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Deutsche Bank Cover-Up At The FDNY?

Nearly two months have gone by since the huge blaze at the Deutsche Bank building has passed, and now Firefighter unions are confident enough to say that the FDNY is trying to cover their tracks in the wake of an investigation started after two firefighters were killed there that day.

From ABC7:

The heads of the Uniformed Firefighters and Fire Officers Associations say top brass at the department told fire chiefs at a meeting last month to stop sending any E-mails about the fire at the Ground Zero skyscraper.

The deadly blaze on August 18 exposed dangerous fire hazards at the contaminated building, which was in the process of being dismantled.

Firefighters union president Steve Cassidy says the department doesn't want the truth about the investigation to come out.

There have been too many "coincidences" to rule out foul play at the top of the FDNY. Hopefully the independent investigation will get past the roadblocks set up by the higher-ups at the Fire Department. The families of Robert Beddia and Joseph Graffagnino deserve the truth and those that are tied to their deaths need to be held accountable. We can not allow this type of negligence to occur again for NY's Bravest.

What Every Member Of Congress Needs To Be Bombarded With

After last week's veto of S-CHIP George Bush is looking for a "compromise" with legislators to keep the program as limited as possible. However the Senate has the votes to override his heartless veto. The House is a different story, there are still many Republicans out there that would rather side with the President than millions of uninsured children. So if your representative voted against S-CHIP, ask them why...then demand they change their position.

A Victory For The Environment

Although American Electric Power made no admission of guilt, their pocketbook paid a heavy price today in court and the benefits go to the air we breathe. After years of litigation, one of the largest generators of energy on the East Coast will pay millions in fines and billions to mitigate the damages they have done to the environment. Their neglect has led to acid rain and all the effects that it causes. Now the sixteen power plants they operate on this side of the Mississippi will be retooled at the cost of $4.6 billion dollars to reduce the amount of poisonous gases they emit.

From RawStory:

"The AEP settlement will have an unprecedented impact on air quality in the eastern United States," said Ronald Tenpas, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's environment and natural resources division.

"This settlement is a major victory for the environment and public health, and it demonstrates our continued commitment to vigorous enforcement of the Clean Air Act," he said.

Joined by eight eastern US states and several environmental groups, the federal government accused AEP of making major changes to its power plants that drove up noxious pollution without first getting regulatory approval.

AEP denies any illegal activities, opting instead to sneak out of admitting their guilt by the "consent decree." Basically it is a legal loophole that infers they did something that has forced them to pay for their actions. Sometimes we need to compromise with the polluters so that ultimately we pay attention to the big picture instead of just incarcerating all the bad guys. It isn't ideal, but I think that in this case it is good enough.

Conservatives Disparage 12 Year Old Without Knowing The Facts

Simply put, rightwing bloggers and their compatriots in the Senate have no shame. In their typically ignorant fashion, they went ahead to blast twelve year-old Graeme Frost and his family after he gave the Democratic address concerning the S-CHIP program. If it weren't for federal health insurance, him and his sister would not have gotten the care they needed after a devastating car accident.

The young boy made a compelling case for S-CHIP but right-wing bloggers went snooping around, looking for details that could make the case for their villainous President and his decision to veto the bill to expand the program. They thought they found items that were helpful for their side, but if they had actually done due diligence they would have known to keep their mouths shut.

From The Blotter:

"People make choices and it's clear the Frosts have made choice to invest in property and a business, but not in private health insurance," Mark Tapscott, editorial page editor of The Washington Examiner, wrote on his blog.

But Manley say conservative bloggers didn't dig deep enough. It turns out that the Frost children attend Baltimore’s Park School on near-full scholarships; they pay roughly $500 per child per year in tuition, he said.

Like many small-business owners, Halsey Frost can't even afford to provide health insurance to himself, Manley said.

"Last year, the Frost's made $45,000 combined," Manley said. "Over the past few years they have made no more than $50,000 combined depending on Halsey's ability to find work."

The Frosts did indeed decide to make a decision to their children. For one thousand dollars a year the kids will get a great education that can help provide for a great future. In our democracy, it is great that our representatives can enable the government to provide health insurance to families that can not afford the ever-increasing price of private programs.

When a couple only makes $45,000 a year, it is hard enough to put food on the table, let alone pay for adequate health care. For conservatives to spin facts for their benefit without caring about the full truth or the reputation of a middle class family is indicative of how they will stop at nothing to obey their failed ideas and a failed Presidency.

George Bush Can't Stop Divorce In Iraq

Bush wanted to "surge" so that the Iraqi government could come together, kiss, and makeup (so that they can pass an oil law that is favorable to him). However the news yesterday was that that dream is nowhere near reaching reality. All sides in Iraq have dug in and oppose everyone else. No matter how much our military tries to manipulate the situation, a unified Iraqi government is not in the cards.

Now can we discuss a Federalized Iraq?

"Atlantic Yards" Back In Court

For those of you that despise gentrification and making one company wealthy at the expense of a community, today is crucial for the plaintiffs arguing against Forest City Ratner and Judge Garaufis' decision to allow the Atlantic Yards to be built as planned. Members of the community are going up against the U.S. Court of Appeals to overturn the decision that basically said that it is okay to destroy a community if it makes the area more glitzy and glamorous.

From The Atlantic Yards Report:

U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis already dismissed their case for a failure to state a claim, ruling that presence of some measure of public benefits—mass transit improvements, the removal of blight, subsidized housing, a sports facility, open space—trumped any allegation that the project might primarily confer a private benefit on developer Forest City Ratner.

There’s a difference, the plaintiffs argue in a final reply brief, and it has to do with process. Precedential cases, which drew on more egregious fact patterns—severe blight in Washington, DC (Berman), and a land oligopoly in Hawaii (Midkiff)—lead courts to defer to legislative determinations, as the Supreme Court in 2005 did in its narrow Kelo v. New London decision, upholding the use of eminent domain for economic development.

The brief says the courts must “resolve the obvious tension between and among” the three cases, which call for courts to defer to “a legislative determination that a taking serves a public purpose” but, as reaffirmed in Kelo, must look carefully at “plausible allegations that ostensibly ‘public’ purposes are pretextual and that the real purpose of a taking is to benefit a private developer.”

The plaintiffs--13 homeowners, business owners, residential and commercial tenants--suggest that, in this case, no deference is warranted, because “all of the indicia of legitimate public decisionmaking are absent, and most or all of the indicia of illegitimate private decisionmaking are present.”

The entire post is long and complex, but a good read for anyone that wants to understand the legitimate arguments of the plaintiffs. All they want is to be able to bring the case to court so that they can present the facts.

This isn't some frivolous lawsuit, it is a chance for the people of the community to speak out on what happens in their lives and the area around them. Allowing one company (and one man, Bruce Ratner) to be able to take people's property away from them so that he can make a profit is not only disgusting, it is un-American. The Appellate Court should at the very least allow the people to present their case.

A "Nobel" Week For Al Gore

In the academia community this is a very big week. Nobel awards are handed out to the very best and brightest in a number of fields. The fields of literature, science, chemistry, physics and medicine are all honored, but the most prized award is the one for peace. When it comes to peace and Nobel, that always means politics is involved. So many prominent figures have won it before, Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter, The Dalai Lama and Martin Luther King Jr. to name a few. And now the political figure of the year looking to become the newest Laureate is Al Gore.

From The Times UK:

Gore, a former American vice-president and failed presidential candidate, has reinvented himself as the “Goracle” with a rock star following after presenting last year’s Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth, about the dangers of climate change.

He was nominated for the Nobel prize jointly with Sheila Watt-Cloutier, a Canadian Inuit activist who has campaigned about the effect of climate change on Arctic peoples.

“A prerequisite for winning the Nobel peace prize is making a difference and Al Gore has made a difference,” said Boerge Brende, a former Norwegian environment minister who nominated Gore and Watt-Cloutier.

“I think they are likely winners this year,” said Stein Toennesson, director of Oslo’s International Peace Research Institute. The winner will receive $1.5m (£750,000) in prize money.

The money aspect of it is irrelevant, it is a great chunk of change that can go for good works but the important part is that it highlights the importance of our environment and what it means for peace on this planet. Many military experts predict that a changing climate can lead to devastating destruction, whether that comes from the conditions themselves (rising sea levels, monstrous storms, etc) or actual war fought over the increasing scarcity of water.

Combating climate change now is essential for peace and Al Gore has made a tremendous difference by using political power to highlight the coming problems that we have brought on ourselves with the Industrial Age. Critics say that this a new thing for Gore after his "failed" Presidential attempt, but followers know that he has been a vocal advocate for the environment for decades.

Although I would love to congratulate him on his Nobel Prize, I think I can wait until they announce the winner on Friday.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Ron Paul Gets Noticed...Again

Ron Paul gets candid with ABC News this morning:

So I Saw This Parade Today

Walking across the park on this hot, balmy day in July October, I encountered a parade full of floats and dancers as I attempted to cross Fifth Avenue. People were banging on instruments and waving to a slightly sizable crowd on this second Monday of the month. For most of the country, it is a day off for banks and schools, but here in New York (and a few other East Coast cities) it is a chance to celebrate Christopher Columbus.

The New York Magazine pondered the holiday today and came up with some interesting ideas. My favorite part had to be about the glimpse into the truth about the man who thought he reached the Indies by sailing the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria.

One could argue that it is because Christopher Columbus not only didn't really discover America but was, you know, a syphilis-riddled dick who, with his buddies, decimated the Native American population.

Really, that was what he was all about. He didn't "discover" America, it was sitting right here for eons. Many other explorers had been here before him as well, from Amerigo Vespucci to the Vikings hundreds of years before. So why does Columbus get all the fame?

Maybe because the names of his ships rhyme and the textbook people thought that was cute? Or maybe Italian-Americans wanted a claim to fame besides the Mafia and the cuisine? Maybe it was a way for the United States to further marginalize Native Americans and piss them off some more by celebrating a day that symbolizes the death of their dominance over the continent. All I know is that I hated waiting to cross Fifth Avenue as the self-involved New Yorker that I am.

Killing For Christ On XBox

I don't know about you, but I usually do not equate camping trips with playing the video game Halo. However many Christian groups conveniently forget about the "Thou Shalt Not Kill" in the bible in order to increase the size of their flock of youthful congregants. Young Christians may not be actually killing people but the game is considered extremely violent by those that play it, especially since it was given a "Mature" rating by the video game powers that be.

From The New York Times:

Martial images in literature or movies popular with religious people are not new. The popular “Left Behind” series of books — it also spawned a video game — dealt with the conflict preceding the second coming of Christ. Playing Halo is “no different than going on a camping trip,” said Kedrick Kenerly, founder of Christian Gamers Online, an Internet site whose central themes are video games and religion. “It’s a way to fellowship.”

Mr. Kenerly said the idea that Halo is inappropriately violent too strictly interpreted the commandment “Thou shalt not kill.” “I’m not walking up to someone with a pistol and shooting them,” he said. “I’m shooting pixels on a screen.”

Mr. Kenerly’s brother, Ken Kenerly, 43, is a pastor who recently started a church in Atlanta and previously started the Family Church in Albuquerque, N.M., where quarterly Halo nights were such a big social event that he had to rent additional big-screen TVs.

Ken Kenerly said he believed that the game could be useful in connecting to young people he once might have reached in more traditional ways, like playing sports. “There aren’t as many kids outdoors as indoors,” he said. “With gamers, how else can you get into their lives?”

Jesus, Mary and Joseph! I wonder what the Messiah would think about this?

I thought that the church was supposed to be a positive influence in kids lives, not actively promoting video game violence. Church groups should be condemning this, not endorsing large groups of kids sitting on couches for hours at a time. I agree with James Tonkowich, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy when he said "If you want to connect with young teenage boys and drag them into church, free alcohol and pornographic movies would do it. My own take is you can do better than that.”

We can definitely do better, thats for sure.

Jim Webb Scares Joe Scarborough Straight On Blackwater

Watch how this "cowboy" does a 180 on his views about Blackwater once Senatory Jim Webb of Virginia comes on his show:

Mitt Romney Turns His Back On MS Patient In Wheelchair

As Mitt Romney spryly walked around a campaign event to shake hands, he encountered Michael Clayton in his wheelchair. Michael has been debilitated by muscular dystrophy and asked the candidate about his views on medical marijuana, specifically if he would legalize the drug for those that use it for medicinal purposes only. What do you think Mitt had to say?

From RawStory:

At a campaign stop in Dover, NH, Mitt Romney was asked about medical marijuana by Clayton Holton, who has muscular dystrophy. "I have the support of five of my doctors saying I am living proof that medical marijuana works," Holton told Romney.

Romney suggested he use synthetic marijuana instead, but Holton said, "I have tried it and it makes me throw up."

He then asked, "Will you arrest me and my doctors if I get medical marijuana?"

"I'm not in favor of medical marijuana being legal," Romney told Holton curtly, then deliberately turned his back on him to say "Hi, how are you" to other members of the audience.

Wasn't that nice of Mitt? Another member in the audience asked him if he would answer Michael's question but basically ignored him and moved on to other people in the crowd. Apparently Romney would throw Mr. Clayton and his doctors in jail, despite the benefits that the drug provides.

Now that's compassionate conservatism at work!

The Friendliest Bike City Around?

I recently heard that New York City got third prize for being the best biking city in the country. How that came to be is besides me. NYC is a dangerous place to ride (or thrilling for some) where potholes, car doors and taxis can jump out at you at any moment. There are few bike lines and although the city is making an effort to increase the amount of lanes, there is another troubling problem. It is called the NYPD.

Not many people in the media talk about it, but the police here like to attack the Critical Mass bikeride that hopes to actually promote bicycle riding. Now I'm not talking about the savage brutality that occurred around the RNC meeting in 2004. Who cares what happened three years anyway, even if people were beaten and illegally detained? Well if you are as heartless as me, then maybe you'll consider what happened just a couple weeks ago:

About 70 riders regrouped and enjoyed a lovely ride for several miles before a rather nasty attack by the NYPD on scooters and other vehicles on 7th Avenue in the 23rd street area. Of the people detained, some were ticketed, some let go. Reportedly at least one person was arrested because she wasn't carrying identification.

Some riders regrouped and continued to ride, but were likely attacked again as cops were seen following them. A considerable amount of time later several cyclists walking down the sidewalk with their bikes were stopped by NYPD and ticketed for not having proper lights etc - a clear example of NYPD abuse.

Apparently, the past 3 months of cop-free NYC Critical Mass rides was too much for the NYPD and they were compelled to ratchet up their nasty illegal harassment of Critical Mass participants.

The cops just can't get enough of these cyclists, and the city could care less. If you call that being bike-friendly, I'd be afraid to see what the police would do if we weren't.

Mellencamp Sings About "Our Country" In "Jena"

George Sure Likes To Gossip....

If there is one thing that is certain about Iran, there is a lot of talk going on about the country and what the Bush Administration might or might not do with the regional power in the Middle East. The saber-rattling has grown increasingly strong over the last few months and it made al-Arabiya ask our President if it means he will provoke a war with Iran. George calls it "baseless gossip" but whenever he says one thing, he generally means another.

From RawStory:

The al-Arabiya questioned asks Bush about reports in the Arabic press which have alleged the United States has detailed plans to strike military sites in Iran.

"There are some leaking to the press and particularly the Arabic press," the questioner asks. "Is it true that you've issued orders Mr President to your senior generals in the American military to prepare for a major and precise strike that could happen in the middle of January or February."

"Empty propaganda," Bush replied. "Ah, evidently there is a lot of gossip in parts of the country... the world, that's trying to scare people about me personally, my country, and what we stand for. That kind of gossip is just what it is. It's gossip. It's, uh, baseless gossip."

Uh, uhhhhh, uh, I call bullshit Mr. President. There is no reason to believe what you say in an interview with any media outlet, whether it is based in the Middle East or here at home. I'd rather (and yet unfortunately) trust the journalism of a pulitzer-prize winning Sy Hersh over you any day of the week.

The only propaganda being waged is by his neo-con friends and others out there that want to see us go into another war that would stretch our military even thinner than it is now. I am not alone in saying that it could make our armed forces pass their breaking point. Instead of going after the military junta in Burma, we choose to fight a losing battle in Iraq while threatening another conflict next door in Iran.

That is sheer lunacy George.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

If The Cards Are Right, We Can Take Back The Senate

Democrats have a slim majority in the Senate right now, but unfortunately the mere threat of a filibuster sends Harry Reid and his merry Democratic men and women scurrying for the trees. It is sad to see the takeover of the Senate last year do so little for the electorate that gave the Dems the upper hand.

There is hope for us however next year. If everything goes the way we want it to, Democrats could end up with sixty seats in the Senate. That would eliminate any chance for Republicans to strike fear into the hearts of our Democratic caucus.

So how do we go from fifty-one to sixty? Blow by blow it is rather quite simple. With all of the individual accounts of corruption and the overall Republican culture that fosters all of their evil-doers, many of the twenty-two Senate Republicans are vulnerable. Five seats (Hagel, Warner, Craig, Domenici and Allard) are being vacated for various reasons. Other incumbents such as Ted Stevens up in Alaska and John Sununu in New Hampshire are vulnerable to Democratic opposition.

Overall, Republicans continue to disappoint Americans and they in turn will show their displeasure come election day next year. The conservatives didn't get the message last year when they lost control of the legislature but I fear they won't get it next year either. Being stuck with narrow-minded vision has its downsides, thats for sure.

Presidentin' Is Tough

Thou Shalt Steal From God's University

Oral Roberts University has been at the butt of many jokes over the years, but a brewing scandal might just topple the Oklahoma Institution like Joshua at the battle of Jericho. "God" is a mighty word, and it is definitely being tossed around Tulsa. Oral's son Richard runs the place now and is claiming that God has told him to deny the allegations in a lawsuit brought by professors and students of the campus.

According to the lawsuit, Richard has been stealing from the University to pay for lavish trips for his kids, remodeling his house, buying luxury cars for his wife, ridiculous cell phone bills that involve underage boys being called during the middle of the night (I swear I couldn't make this up if I tried) and on top of that, having students work on a Tulsa Mayoral campaign that is highly illegal as the University is a non-profit institution.

Students and professors are extremely angry at what they have uncovered and seek unspecified damages for being dismissed after making the allegations public. Some students are even transferring to avoid the shame of having a degree from ORU. Of course in Richard Roberts' world, God tells a different story:

At a chapel service this week on the 5,300-student campus known for its 60-foot-tall bronze sculpture of praying hands, Roberts said God told him: "We live in a litigious society. Anyone can get mad and file a lawsuit against another person whether they have a legitimate case or not. This lawsuit ... is about intimidation, blackmail and extortion."

God Richard Roberts is close to what this case is all about. The word isn't "extortion," it is "embezzlement."